TDR: a time to live or die?

Responding to the Lancet editorial

TDR news item
24 August 2012

By John Reeder, Director TDR, Geneva, Switzerland

We thank the Lancet for drawing attention to recent activities at TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases1. As the new Director, I was encouraged to see that I was presiding over a christening and not a funeral. But as the Lancet rightly points out, despite its proud history, TDR has recently faced the challenges of the global financial crisis and of maintaining identity in a complex diaspora. As the editorial highlights, though, there is still a real need for an organization like TDR to take advantage of its UN position and co-sponsorship by UNICEF, UNDP, the World Bank and WHO to forward an agenda on health research for diseases of poverty.

TDR has recently taken a long hard look at itself in the mirror of current global health needs and developed a new strategic plan2, re-emphasising the core values of research capacity strengthening and the facilitation of research on neglected diseases, particularly in strengthening implementation research to help low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) scale up treatments and strategies already available but not well utilised.

We welcome scrutiny, but would like to correct a few important points raised by Dr Pepin in his Lancet correspondence3. Despite the correspondent not remembering any recent scientific papers supported by TDR, we have records4 of an average of 200 papers a year in the last biennium (2010-11) acknowledging this support, with over 62% of these papers written by a first author from a LMIC. Grants have indeed been limited by the global financial situation, but following release of the strategic vision, three new grant calls with a variety of partners have been released5, and we welcome researchers to submit their applications. The correspondent also raises the issue of cost effectiveness within the UN system. It does indeed add cost to operate within this system, but it also brings immeasurable benefit in terms of real engagement with LMIC ministries, health systems and disease control programmes, which are the building blocks for taking research evidence into health policy and practice. Nevertheless, we are currently reorganising into a leaner, even more cost effective structure, to ensure that maximum value is given to funders and stakeholders.

It is indeed a time for TDR to live. We ask for your constructive support to help us continue to achieve what we and many others believe has been an immensely valuable impact on diseases of poverty.

For more information, please contact:

Jamie Guth
TDR Communications Manager
Telephone: +41 79 441 2289

1 The Lancet. TDR: a time to live or die? Lancet 2012; 379: 1562.
3 Pepin J. TDR: a time to live or die? (correspondence). Lancet 2012; 380: 340.